Mojo - 2013...on-unstoppable?page=96

CBS News' Benghazi Review Leaves Several Big Questions Unanswered

| Tue Nov. 26, 2013 4:24 PM EST

It's not surprising that CBS News today announced that 60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan and her producer Max McClellan were taking (or being forced to accept?) leaves of absence after an internal review confirmed the obvious: they had botched their now infamous Benghazi report and helped perpetuate a hoax crafted by Dylan Davies, a security consultant who claimed he had been at the compound the night of the attack.

The review's summary findings—which you can read here—note that the contradictions between the account Davies was peddling in public (via a book) and the information he provided to the FBI and the State Department were "knowable" prior to the airing of Logan's report. Logan and McClellan, the review found, "did not sufficiently vet Davies’ account of his own actions and whereabouts that night." No kidding. And the report suggests that Logan was driven by both a desire to find something new in a story already much covered and her belief that the Obama administration was misrepresenting the threat posed by Al Qaeda. This is damning: she failed to do a basic task of reporting and she might have had an agenda.

The review does not answer all the questions that popped up following the 60 Minutes report, especially this one: why the hell did CBS News continue to defend this story after evidence emerged that Davies had fabricated his tale? The summary findings note:

After the story aired, the Washington Post reported the existence of a so-called "incident report" that had been prepared by Davies for Blue Mountain in which he reportedly said he spent most of the night at his villa, and had not gone to the hospital or the mission compound. Reached by phone, Davies told the 60 Minutes team that he had not written the incident report, disavowed any knowledge of it, and insisted that the account he gave 60 Minutes was word for word what he had told the FBI. Based on that information and the strong conviction expressed by the team about their story, [CBS News chairman and 60 Minutes executive producer] Jeff Fager defended the story and the reporting to the press.

Hold on. One of the best newspapers in the world reports the existence of documentary evidence that blows the credibility of your super-duper source out of the water, and what do you do? You call the source and ask him if he told you the truth? When the source insists that he did, you take his word and stick to the story? This does not seem like best practices. The Post report should have triggered a five-alarm alert within CBS News. But this much-storied media institution seemingly brushed it aside. It was only after The New York Times told CBS News that it had discovered that Davies' account did not match what he had told the FBI that 60 Minutes kicked into action:

Within hours, CBS News was able to confirm that in the FBI's account of their interview, Davies was not at the hospital or the mission compound the night of the attack. 60 Minutes announced that a correction would be made, that the broadcast had been misled, and that it was a mistake to include Davies in the story.

In other words, the Times had to do CBS News' own job.

That might be the most embarrassing aspect of this episode. Logan and McClellan screwed up big time—and their motivations are fair game. But CBS News hung on to the Davies fiction after there was reason to suspect the network had been fooled and exploited. (The right-wing Benghazi truthers—this means you, Sen. Lindsey Graham—had jumped on the 60 Minutes report like fleas to a dog.) Did the brass at CBS News calculate that the network could ride out the storm? If so, they were thinking like political spinmeisters, not news people. That's a blemish that won't fade soon.

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The CIA Trained Gitmo Detainees as Double Agents at a Secret Facility Named After a Beatles Song

| Tue Nov. 26, 2013 1:52 PM EST

Between 2003 and 2006, the CIA recruited and trained a small number of Guantanamo Bay detainees as double agents, according to an Associated Press report published on Tuesday. The program was run out of a clandestine facility near the military prison, and—according to US officials—was useful in gathering intel for targeting and killing Al Qaeda leaders. (CIA officers would typically meet with double agents in Afghanistan.)

"Jail time at Guantanamo is a new asset on the résumés of many double agents, security officials say—an ultimate sign of credibility that often makes them revered and trusted among senior operatives," another AP story, from 2010, reads.

In 2009, President Obama ordered a review of the double agents recruited during the Gitmo program because the agents provided intel used in drone-strike operations, according to one of the officials interviewed. But perhaps the most attention-grabbing part of the AP's new investigation is that the CIA's old double-agent facility was nicknamed after a Beatles song.

Here's the relevant text from the AP (emphasis mine):

The program was carried out in a secret facility built a few hundred yards from the administrative offices of the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The eight small cottages were hidden behind a ridge covered in thick scrub and cactus.

The program and the handful of men who passed through these cottages had various official CIA code names.

But those who were aware of the cluster of cottages knew it best by its sobriquet: Penny Lane.

It was a nod to the classic Beatles song and a riff on the CIA's other secret facility at Guantanamo Bay, a prison known as Strawberry Fields.

Paul McCartney, the principal songwriter for "Penny Lane," did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how he felt about this.

Federal Judge Says Illinois Same-Sex Couple Can Marry Early

| Tue Nov. 26, 2013 1:06 PM EST

Last week, Illinois became the sixteenth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Though the law isn't scheduled to take effect until June 1, 2014, one couple has been granted permission to marry seven months early. 

A federal judge has ordered that an expedited marriage license be issued to Vernita Gray—who has terminal breast cancer—and her longtime partner Patricia Ewert. Gray, 64 and Ewert, 65, who have been together for five years, will become the first same-sex couple to be legally wed in Illinois. 

"I have two cancers, bone and brain and I just had chemo today," Gray told NBC Chicago. "I am so happy to get this news. I’m excited to be able to marry and take care of Pat, my partner and my family, should I pass."

On Friday, two days after Governor Pat Quinn signed the marriage equality bill, Ewert and Gray, who isn't expected to live until June, filed a lawsuit with Lambda Legal, an LGBT rights legal organization, seeking permission to marry immediately. On Monday, US District Judge Thomas Durkin agreed and ordered Cook County Clerk David Orr to issue the couple a marriage license.

"As a supporter of same-sex marriage, I'm pleased Judge Durkin granted relief to Patricia Ewert and Vernita Gray in this difficult time," Orr said in a statement to the Chicago Tribune.

Though they've been in a civil union since 2011, Gray and Ewert do not enjoy the full protections of marriage. “I believe the most important thing for Vernita was to be able to protect Pat,” a close friend of the couple told the Chicago Sun-Times. "And with Social Security and federal benefits and how estates are handled in a marriage, it really makes them full-class citizens in Illinois."

Read US District Judge Thomas Durkin's ruling below:

 

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for November 26, 2013

Tue Nov. 26, 2013 11:00 AM EST

The “dead leg crawl” is one of nine obstacles on the Air Assault obstacle course at Fort Bliss, Texas. Pvt. Sonja Robinson, human resources specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division, survived the barbed wire and completed the course with her company during Sergeant’s Time Training, Nov. 14. Photo by Spc. Jeanita C. Pisachubbe, 1st AD CAB Public Affairs.

Food Stamp Costs Are Decreasing Without The GOP's Cuts

| Tue Nov. 26, 2013 7:00 AM EST

As Congress debates renewing the farm bill, Republicans have been pressing for big cuts to the food stamp budget as part of the negotiations. House GOP leaders want to slash as much as $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over the next decade, a cut that would affect nearly four million low-income people. Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.), a former funeral director and current House pointman in the negotiations, has called the "explosion of food stamps in this country" the "defining moral issue of our time," and he's set out to "reform" the program by imposing work requirements on recipients.

Southerland would specifically push states to end SNAP benefits for poor families in areas of high unemployment. The premise behind his reform proposals is that the food stamp program is "growing into oblivion." But a new study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that in fact, enrollment in the food program, which hit a record during the recession, has already started to plateau and is projected to decline about five percent next year even if Congress does absolutely nothing. 

Part of that decline is the result of a seven-percent, across-the-board cut that went into effect November 1 with the expiration of about $5 billion in funding increases from the 2009 stimulus bill. But even without that cut, caseloads have been stabilizing since 2011 and remained flat this year. Now, the Congressional Budget Office projects that, barring any major fiscal disasters, the food stamp budget is on track to return to 1995 levels in about five years, falling about two to five percent a year as the economy recovers. All this even if Congress doesn't do anything to "reform" a program that kept nearly five million people (2.2 million of them children) out of poverty last year and is responsible for broad economic and public health gains.

If Southerland gets his way, though, instead of letting a recovering economy pare down food stamp spending, Congress will throw 1.7 million of the nation's poorest people out of the program—people whose annual income is less than $2,500 a year—and incentivize the states to drop even more so they can use the savings on other things, like tax cuts for the wealthy. It's times like these when doing nothing seems like a good idea.

Sandy Hook Crime Report: Adam Lanza Obsessed With Mass Murder and Dance Dance Revolution

| Tue Nov. 26, 2013 1:39 AM EST
Entrance to Sandy Hook Elementary where Adam Lanza shot his way in.

In the three months leading up to his rampage, Adam Lanza only communicated with his mother via email even though they lived in the same house. Prior to leaving on a short trip a few days before her son would murder her and head to Sandy Hook Elementary, Nancy Lanza cooked him some of his favorite dishes. Adam Lanza frequently spent his weekends at a local theater playing Dance Dance Revolution for up to 10 hours at a time. At the time of his death, the 6-foot tall Lanza weighed only 112 pounds. Those are among the new revelations from Connecticut State's Attorney Stephen J. Sedensky's final report on the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, which was released today. 

The long-awaited official documentation of the December 14, 2012 massacre that left 20 children and six adults dead is only a summary of the yet-to-be released final crime report, which is estimated to run thousands of pages, according to the Hartford Courant. The summary report includes a timeline of the police response to Sandy Hook, starting with the first 911 call. It also offers some insight into the family history, interests, and mental health of the shooter, painting a dark picture of a deeply disturbed individual, but offering no conclusive motive for why he did it.

Included in the report is an inventory of video games he owned, along with a record of some of the evidence recovered from Lanza's hard drives, such as images of him brandishing weapons, movies depicting mass shootings, and videos of people committing suicide by gunshot. Included in a separate appendix to the report are search warrants, photos of the crime scenes, and Lanza's toxicology report (no drugs or alcohol were found in his system).

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Corn on "Hardball": Has Obama Delivered on Foreign Policy Promises?

Mon Nov. 25, 2013 10:32 PM EST

Mother Jones DC bureau chief David Corn spoke with MSNBC's Chris Matthews tonight about how far Obama has come towards meeting his foreign policy goals.

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.

FDA Reviewing Evidence That Morning-After Pill Doesn't Work in Women Weighing Over 176 Pounds

| Mon Nov. 25, 2013 5:44 PM EST

Monday morning, Mother Jones reported that the European manufacturer of an emergency contraceptive pill identical to Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill, will warn women that the drug is completely ineffective in women weighing more than 176 pounds, and begins to lose effectiveness in women weighing more than 165 pounds. HRA Pharma, which makes the European drug, Norlevo, asked European regulators for permission to change the drug's labeling after reviewing its own clinical data and scientific research from 2011 which showed emergency contraceptives are prone to fail in women with higher body mass indexes.

Now the Food and Drug Administration has responded to this story, telling Mother Jones that FDA officials are weighing whether pharmaceutical companies that sell similar emergency contraceptive pills in the US must change their labeling. Many popular morning-after pills sold in the US—including one-pill emergency contraceptives Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, and My Way, as well as a number of generic two-pill emergency contraceptives—are chemically identical to Norlevo, which also uses the chemical compound levonorgestrel to prevent pregnancy after sex. 

"The FDA is currently reviewing the available and related scientific information on this issue, including the publication upon which the Norlevo labeling change was based," FDA spokeswoman Erica Jefferson writes in an email. "The agency will then determine what, if any, labeling changes to approved emergency contraceptives are warranted."

Jefferson declined to say when the FDA began its review. If FDA officials feel they have sufficient data to justify a change to product information, the FDA can order companies to update their labels. Jefferson adds that US drug companies have a legal obligation to alert the FDA if new information makes their existing labeling inaccurate.

John Bolton: The Only Option in Iran Is War

| Mon Nov. 25, 2013 1:09 PM EST

It's refreshing when a neoconservative says what he really wants. Hours after the Obama administration announced an interim agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear program, John Bolton, the hawk's hawk of the neocon crowd (remember when he practically yearned for terrorists to blow up Chicago with a nuclear device to teach Barack Obama a lesson?), was busy penning a piece for The Weekly Standard decrying the deal as an "abject surrender" of President Obama to the mullahs of Iran. Bolton essentially makes the familiar (and hyperbolic) conservative case that any deal that does not start with Iran trashing all of its nuclear equipment is yet another Munich moment. From this perspective, there can be no bargaining with Tehran—that is, no diplomacy. The only acceptable path is absolutist demands from the United States and its allies and total capitulation from Iran. Now what are the odds of that yielding success?

Bolton is honest enough to acknowledge that talking, as he sees it, will lead to nothing but an Iran armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons. Thus, his article ends with this assertion: "in truth, an Israeli military strike is the only way to avoid Tehran's otherwise inevitable march to nuclear weapons." Thank you, Ambassador, for such candor. He is acknowledging that from his perch there is nothing Obama can do short of giving Bibi Netanyahu the green light for a military assault on Iran. Consequently, Bolton's critique of the details of the negotiations deserves little attention, for he's set on war, not diplomacy—a view that may well be reflected throughout hawkish conservative circles.

If this is not enough to discount Bolton's take on the interim accord, there's also history. Prior to the US invasion of Iraq, he declared, "We are confident that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction and production facilities in Iraq," noting that the US role in Iraq after any invasion would be "fairly minimal." For years afterward—after no WMDs were found in Iraq—Bolton continued to claim the WMD case for that war was justified. Despite this lousy track record, Bolton, like other neocons, is hardly bashful when it comes to making dire statements about Iran's nuclear programs and dismissing ongoing efforts at peaceful resolution. But give him credit for being clear about his bottom-line: let's skip all the chatting and get right to war.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for November 25, 2013

Mon Nov. 25, 2013 11:00 AM EST

Marines with Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment Reconnaissance, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and French Army and Navy personnel conduct combined parachute operations in Djibouti Nov. 13, 2013. The 13th MEU is deployed with the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group as a theater reserve and crisis response force throughout the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Jared Padula/Released.